Samhain Ritual ideas

Samhain is traditionally a Celtic holiday marking the end of harvest season. Each culture celebrates in their own way. In spiritual circles, Samhain is often referred to as The Witches New Year* and it’s arguably the most important celebration of the year for many Pagan, Wicca, Folk and Neo-Pagan practitioners. I want to start this article […]

Oct 24, 2022

Samhain is traditionally a Celtic holiday marking the end of harvest season. Each culture celebrates in their own way. In spiritual circles, Samhain is often referred to as The Witches New Year* and it’s arguably the most important celebration of the year for many Pagan, Wicca, Folk and Neo-Pagan practitioners.

I want to start this article by saying… there is no incorrect way to celebrate Samhain and cultures around the world celebrate in a whole variety of different ways!

The ritual ideas in this article are designed to give you some inspiration. You can tailor them and their instructions to your own practice and beliefs 😎


It’s almost impossible to talk about the history of Samhain without mentioning the síth (pronounced shee). 

In Irish and Scottish folklore, the sídh includes all faery folk which are separated into two groups. The good fae and the bad fae

It’s believed that the good fae live in the seelie court, and the bad fae live in the unseelie court.

Making a differentiation between the good and bad síth is almost impossible – this is why many choose to avoid them entirely. They are known for causing mischief and destruction, regardless of their seelie alignment.

At this time of year, the ancient Celts believed that the sídh could breach the thin veil between worlds and capture people then drag them back to the unseelie court. The unseelie court is a sort of a.. faery underworld where dark and evil forces of the sídh live.

The ancient Celts has several rituals to protect themselves from the sídh during Samhain, some of these rituals still survive today. For example…

They would build a huge bonfire and the whole community was responsible for keeping it burning to scare off the síth. It’s said, if the fire went out then the síth would steal people from the village and drag them to the unseelie court.

They would also leave offerings on the outskirts of their land to appease the síth. Offerings such as milk, honey, and sweet breads were common.

And of course, the most popular tradition of Samhain still survives is guising (more commonly known as trick or treating). This is a tradition where people dress up in scary masks and costumes with the hopes of scaring off the síth and otherworldly spirits.

South Uist Guisers, Scotland 1932. Photographed by Margaret Frey Shaw. SOURCE


Ancestral Work

Many believe that the veil between the physical world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest as we welcome in the darker half of the year. During the thinning of the veil, you might notice that spirits, ghosts and entities are more active. If you’re sensitive to them – you’ll probably notice an increase in activity during this time. (If you want to protect yourself and/or home from entities, check out THIS bindrune)

The thinning of the veil makes also it a perfect time for connecting with and honouring your ancestors.

Throughout history, ancestral worship at this time of year has been integral part of Celtic practice.

It was (and still is) believed, that by remembering our loved ones we invite them close to us. This allows them to walk side by side when the veil is at its thinnest.

Popular ideas for ancestral work at this time of year are…

  • Leaving pictures of passed loved ones around the house
  • Building an ancestral altar to honour those who have passed (can also include photos, heirlooms and their favourite foods)
  • Dumb supper – this is a tradition where you cook foods or drinks that your loved ones enjoyed while alive. You set up a place for them at the table and invite them to join you. I have not personally tried this, but I’ve heard it can be a surreal experience
  • Leaving an offering to your ancestors – if a dumb supper sounds a bit too creepy, you can leave offerings of their favourite foods and drinks as a way of commemorating them and their lives. You can also craft new items that they would like such as wooden trinkets or new heirlooms
  • Take favourite foods of your ancestors to the cemetery – I’ve even heard of people having picnics in the cemetery with their ancestors

Personally, I love building an ancestral altar specifically for Samhain. Sadly, that’s not something I can do this year as I’m moving home on 1st November… BUT… I do plan to do a personal forest ritual and a bath ritual.

Gratitude Rituals

Since Samhain is the last harvest of the year, many people like to perform gratitude rituals. This is where we reflect on the things we have been grateful for the last year. Here’s some ideas…

  • Journalling – write down things you are grateful for the past year and set new intentions for the coming year
  • Make a list of things you are grateful for and leave it on your altar
  • Gift loved ones with something nice to show your gratitude
  • Or simply… remind people that you’re grateful for their presence in your life

Intention Setting Rituals

Consciously setting intentions for the coming months is a great way to stay on track and manifest things that you’d like to accomplish. Personally, I like to try and do this on every witchy holiday. It’s a great way of dividing the year up and thinking of the coming months in manageable bitesize pieces. Here’s some ideas…

  • Leave sticky notes around the house with your intentions
  • Make a list of intentions
  • Meditate and manifest
  • Make notes in your phone of your intentions
  • Make a pinterest board of your intentions

Personally, I like to merge the gratitude and intention setting rituals…

Try this ritual (if you’d like!)

  • Grab a piece of paper and write down the things you are grateful for on one side of the paper
  • On the other side, write down the intentions you would like to set for the coming months or year
  • I like to take a walk in nature with my list, mentally picturing and manifesting my intentions as I walk
  • My favourite place to leave offerings is in the shadow of a local blackthorn tree
  • I bury the paper with my intentions and gratitude’s in the shadow and leave an offering to the Norn’s (spinners of fate in Germanic and Norse mythology)

NOTE: Instead of burying the paper in the forest, you can burn it. As bonfires are a very prominent tradition at Samhain, I believe this is another great way to do things.

South Uist Guisers, Scotland 1932. Photographed by Margaret Frey Shaw. SOURCE.

Divination and Future Insights

Many people use the veil thinning to grab a glimpse into the future, and with Samhain being named the Celtic (and/or Pagan) New Year, curiosity in the future probably comes as no surprise.

There are hundreds of ways you can perform divination, but I’ve narrowed it down to three which are exceptionally popular at this time of year.

Using runes for divination

Unsurprisingly, runes are my favourite method of divination😁. Again, there’s hundreds of ways to perform rune readings, depending on your personal beliefs and preferences. Here, I’ve just given one example.

Here’s what you need to do this:

  • A rune set (if you don’t have one, you can write the runes onto 24 individual pieces of paper – it’s not ideal but it still works! It’s worth noting that Elder Futhark is the only rune language that is used for divination)
  • OPTIONAL: Incense, candles, music and an ambient setting to concentrate on the energy of the runes

An idea on how you can perform a rune reading:

  • Place all the runes upside down, so that the runes are hidden
  • In a meditative state with your eyes closed, hover your hand over the runes until one calls to you.
  • When it does, pull it and place it in the nine-rune spread (working left to right)
  • The first trio relates to the past.
  • The second line relates to the present.
  • The third line relates to the future.
  • Each line is related to the rune in the centre of the spread which is the most important

Using scrying for divination

There are hundreds of ways to perform scrying, but this method is probably the most popular. It’s worth noting that at this time of year, this one might only be suitable for experienced practitioners as it can bring forth some unsavoury spirits and having prior knowledge on how to banish them (in case they do appear) is advised.

What you need:

  • Mirror
  • Candle
  • Ambient setting (somewhere quiet that you won’t be disturbed)
  • OPTIONAL: Incense

How to scry:

  • Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit with a mirror and your candle
  • Light the candle and place it in front of the mirror
  • Focus on the flame in the mirror
  • Falling into a mediative type of state while performing this is (in my opinion) essential to it “working
  • It’s said that future events, messages and spirits can come through and use this as a line of communication
  • I recommend cleansing yourself and the mirror after scrying

Using nuts for divination

Yes, you did read that correctly 😂

At this time of year, gathering nuts is fairly common. Especially in Autumn where they’re falling in abundance.

I learned about this method from a friend of mine.

Throughout Germanic folk tradition, nuts are gathered on or before Samhain and each one is named after a love interest.

One by one, the nuts are tossed into the fire and the nut that burns the brightest is your destined partner.

While I’m personally not a big fan of love magic, I think this can be adapted to fit a broader range of situations.

Perhaps instead of naming the nuts after potential love interests, we can name them after situations and paths that we are interested in following in future.

For example… name the nuts after three things you’re interested in learning in future.

I would like to learn more about necromancy

I would like to learn more about herbs

I would like to learn more about oenomancy

Toss the three nuts into the fire and the one that burns the brightest is perhaps… your destined path of learning.

Bath and Water Rituals

It’s believed that water is a great medium for channelling, divination and all sorts of magical workings. Since almost every living thing on this earth is comprised of water, it can be a great way to connect with the world around us on a much deeper level.

At this time of year, I often receive messages from my ancestors when I perform this ritual.

Bath Ritual

What you’ll need:

  • Bath
  • Herbs of your choice
  • Some quiet time
  • Optional: Lots of salt (I like using Epsom bath salt, it’s great for relaxing muscles)
  • Optional: Incense
  • Optional: Candles
  • I like to draw relevant bindrunes on my skin. This is what feels right for me, but it is not essential

How to perform:

  • Run a bath and place your herbs (and salt if you choose to use it) in the water
  • Create an ambient setting where you can meditate and perform this ritual (maybe place some candles around the bath, light some incense… whatever feels right for you!)
  • Soak in the water and allow yourself to drift – if you can, fall into a mediative state and see what snippets of information come forth

Feasting and Cooking Rituals

Throughout history, the day of Samhain started as a large community gathering with food, drink and lots of folk tales. Feasting before the cold and long nights draw in was incredibly sacred to the ancient Celtic people (in modern Scotland we still have some feasting rituals such as St Andrews day – but that’s a story for another post!).

In modern times we don’t have as much opportunity to gather as a community and enjoy this but… there’s still some really awesome food rituals to take part in.

Almost all Samhain recipes and rituals revolve around root vegetables such as pumpkin, turnip, parsnip and potatoes.

Fun Foodie Fact: In Ireland and Scotland, turnips were carved for Samhain instead of pumpkins.

You can create a brilliant root veg soup and stir your intentions in… you can create pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie – the world is literally your oyster when it comes to food and kitchen magic.

Here’s a few fun recipes that I found which might be of use at this time of year!!

Pumpkin Soup

(From Pumpkin soup recipe – BBC Food)


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 25g/1oz unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium pumpkin (prepared weight about 850g/1lb 14oz) deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium-sized floury potato, such as Maris Piper, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre/1¾ pint vegetable or chicken stock, a little extra may be needed
  • 100ml/3½fl oz double cream
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Put the onion, carrots, garlic bay leaf, butter and half the olive oil into a large pan. Cook over a low–medium heat for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender but not coloured.
  2. Add the squash and potato, mix to combine and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Pour in the stock, season well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, half cover the pan with a lid and continue to cook for about 40 minutes until the squash is really tender when tested with the point of a knife.
  3. Pick out the bay leaf and blend the soup until smooth using a stick blender.
  4. Add the cream and a little more stock if the soup is on the thick side, taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as required.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds and fry quickly until the seeds start to pop. Remove from the pan.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a swirl of cream and the toasted pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin Bread

(From Pumpkin Loaf – ALDI UK)


  • 200g Pumpkin puree – roughly half a pumpkin
  • 150g Plain flour
  • 1/4tsp Salt
  • 2tsp Baking Powder
  • 3/4tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1tsp Ground Ginger
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 100g Unsalted Butter – softened
  • 2 Eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
  2. Make the pumpkin puree by cutting the pumpkin in to wedges with the skin still on.
  3. Make a foil envelope and bake the pumpkin in it for roughly an hour until cooked, ensuring the pumpkin doesn’t colour.
  4. Once cooked, scrape away from the skin and blend.
  5. Turn the oven down to 160˚C.
  6. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  7. Mix all the dry ingredients apart from the sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  8. In a separate bowl cream the sugar and butter until light.
  9. Slowly add the two eggs to the butter-sugar mix and beat well until very light.
  10. Beat in the dry ingredients to create the batter, then add the pumpkin.
  11. Pour into the loaf tin and cook for one hour.
  12. Check it is cooked with a skewer.
  13. When cooked, remove from the oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from the tin. Allow to cool further on a rack.

Root Vegetable Crisps

(From Homemade vegetable crisps | Diabetes UK)


  • 120g sweet potato
  • 120g carrot
  • 100g parsnip
  • 100g beetroot
  • 15 sprays of spray oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Slice the vegetables very thinly – a mandoline slicer is perfect.
  2. Spray a little oil over a baking sheet and arrange the vegetable slices ensuring they don’t overlap. You may need to make them in separate batches depending on the size of your oven.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. It’s vital to turn the vegetables frequently during cooking as they can easily burn. You may need to remove some crisps before the 20 minutes is up, as some will cook faster than others.
  4. When all the crisps are ready, allow them to cool then mix together and serve.

Roasted Chestnuts

(From Roasted Chestnuts Recipe | Christmas Recipes | Tesco Real Food)


  • 350g chestnuts
  • ½ tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 2 tsp soft light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp mixed spice


  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C, fan 180°C. With a sharp knife, carefully make a cross in the top of each chestnut, cutting into the shell but not all the way through. Transfer to a roasting tin, cross-side up, and roast for 25-30 mins until the shell starts to peel away from the nut inside.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the salt, sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice in a small bowl. Leave the nuts until just cool enough to handle, then peel away the shell and papery husk. Sprinkle over some spiced salt and serve with the rest to dip into.


Being the last harvest festival of the year, throughout history, Samhain was only celebrated when the last harvest was complete. Even now, before Samhain, people often take the time to harvest any items they might need for their Samhain rituals.

Don’t worry, if you don’t have time or the items you want / need locally. Harvesting your ritual items is not essential!


As we mentioned at the start of this article, bonfires at Samhain is a tradition that has been around for centuries. It’s believed that the fire light would stop the sídh from luring people from the village so even today – bonfires are still a popular tradition.

Some believe that bonfires light the way for ancestral spirits, others believe that a Samhain bonfire is a great excuse for feasting and celebration.

… and who could blame them? Bonfire cooked food always tastes better or is it just me?

Whatever your beliefs, bonfires, candles and hearths are a great way to welcome in the darker nights and longer days.


It would be foolish of me not to touch on how important (I believeprotection is at this time of year. With the veil at its thinnest, we are much more open for psychic attacks, spiritual attacks and even – energy vampires.

To combat this, I recommend salting your house boundary and ensuring your wards are strong enough to withstand this time of year. Make sure to wear any protection amulets that you like and if you use crystals, you might want to cleanse and charge them before Samhain.

🎃 However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful holiday!! 🎃

Featured artwork: Halloween 2018 by UnidColor on DeviantArt

*Many Celtic celebrations begin with darkness which is why Samhain is often referred to The New Year 😁


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